By Matt Vallez, Tony Thorne
Several decades ago when real men dragged their 200 lb golf bag around a golf course, it didn’t take long to see the need for a mode of transportation, thus the “Golf Car” was born. These somewhat primitive vehicles came with various drive schemes, 3 or 4 wheels, some with relay drives to the more sophisticated “resistor speed control”. As with any evolution, over the decades to follow the golf cars got better; more features, better batteries, and more reliable controls, and more powerful motors.
As golf centric communities have developed and courses became longer, what is expected from a golf car has changed. We expect our current electric golf cars to go where only a gas car could go just a few years ago. Other uses such as recreational off-road fun and extreme hunting buggies have increased the challenges. This is changing the way we use electric golf cars and causing engineers to re-think motor controllers, motors, and various safety devices. Stock OEM controllers used on the golf course were designed and programmed to work a specific way, so driving on-road as a car or off road for fun requires more speed, torque and power.
The first upgrade to “solid state” controls offered a smoother and more efficient operating system as compared to the resistor based golf cars, without wasting power in heating coils that could accidentally catch dried grass on fire. In 2000, Alltrax took its electric race cars technology and brought it to the golf car aftermarket with more power and features, but there lies the challenge. So may different carts and configurations out there! So they developed a programmable version – an aftermarket controller that allows golf car dealers to re-program them for a particular cart, throttle type, or customer application. Now dealers stock 1 or 2 versions and program them for any application. This saves a huge amount of inventory expense by not having to stock bazillion different motor controllers.
Recent Technology Advances:
Over the last 3 years the advances in microprocessor technology, power electronics, and manufacturing methods have unlocked the key to provide a “smart controller” with performance and features taking the golf car (as we know today) to a whole new level. This new platform uses the latest 32 bit microprocessor with capacity for smart throttle control, excellent traction power control, user friendly USB communications and simplistic programming. The increased overall efficiency and performance of this new platform cannot be achieved by the aging 8-bit micro-controller. This new product is called the SPM for “Series and Permanent Magnet” motor controller system.
Then let’s assume the number of different golf cars out there (near 4 million total), ranging from old and new, some with throttle issues, different battery type, voltage, and age, then add in the myriad of interface connectors. A simple mistake installing a controller can be a costly experience or not perform as expected. The challenge for the golf cart dealer is getting a box and installing it correctly with the proper settings for that cart and that throttle without blowing something up.
Other issues arriving from the recent changes in golf car use is the larger motors and hi-current controllers suffer the older design of safety systems such as small solenoids, protection circuits, and fail safe controls. A stock golf cart driving 14MPH on the golf course is a whole different story than a 10HP high speed motor driven by a 500 amp controller doing 25MPH down the street to get groceries. Larger solenoids and better safety features are needed, similar to how our automotive industry has evolved.
In an attempt to engineer the “APPLE CONTROLLER” for the current needs of the golf car market Alltrax has come up with a new line of controllers that Steve Jobs, if still around, would wish he had invented. These controllers are that intuitive and smart that it makes anyone who uses them seem the same way, ahead of there time.
The SPM is a new design in the field of electric vehicle motor controls, embodying all that Alltrax has learned over the past 15 years of design, manufacture, use and abuse of their DCP, AXE and DCX products. The SPM looks different because Alltrax listened – Color Coded Topside wiring and re-locatable Flexi-Mount mounting feet for easy installation.
The SPM is different “than the other controller boxes” out there because Alltrax has taken full advantage of technology changes to craft a very sophisticated yet simple and reliable drive. The SPM is also a complete thermal solution – no external heat-sink required. The drive style and user interface are like no other – Torque and Speed are graphically adjustable, you can re-curve the throttle response from buttery smooth to neck snapping wild.
Features include: 10 field programmable throttle types, advanced safety features (ASF) such as main relay Solenoid control, buss-bar thermal overload protection and ability to withstand output short circuits. Model variations with sealed connectors have features like rev limiting and CAN buss to further integrate the motor controller within the vehicle system, and provide forward compatibility with some upcoming amazing (and top-secret) new components.
Made in the USA, Alltrax motor controls are manufactured at their factory located in Southern Oregon on a vertically integrated process by a dedicated crew. Our robotic pick and place equipment to assemble circuit boards, custom tooling for the internals, and then soldered in a reflow oven and wave solder machines. Fully Automated test equipment calibrates and verifies proper operation at circuit board level, and then all SPM units are encapsulated for water and vibration proofing then dyno-meter tested at FULL power. Features are then pre-programmed when you order but allows you to “adjust as needed” to meet your expectations using super simple USB connected software.
The new SPM controllers have undergone extensive development and testing here during the past 2 years and at customer sites for over 6 months, I think they are the toughest, most sophisticated motor controllers on the market.
What does this mean to the Dealer? This new generation platform, the SPM will make your cart a whole new machine, a better new driving experience, at a better cost of investment.
It’s time we change the way we think about golf cars, they are not just for chasing little white balls on the fairways any more, they are sitting in traffic getting the kids from school or stalking the big 12 point buck in the woods.
For more information on how to purchase the SPM, contact Nivel at www.nivelparts.com